As a former senior executive at Yahoo and ESPN, among others, Michael is quite the seasoned traveller himself. It’s this firsthand experience, together with his technical knowledge, that shape his vision of what it takes to provide a good business travel service. “Curtailing the freedom of the traveller for any other reason than security,” he says, “is unsustainable.”
What is the main benefit of mobile travel technologies?
When you boil it down to the essence, mobile travel technologies’ biggest benefit is that it reduces anxiety. Anxiety used to be a constant factor for travellers: “When is my next flight? Which train do I have to take? Will I make my transfer?” Mobile apps empower the traveller not only with the information they need, when they need it, but also with the freedom to comfortably make their own choices along their travel path.
In which way does that benefit the travel manager?
With anxiety reduced, the traveller has less frustration to take out on the travel manager. It may sound harsh, but complaints and frustration are a daily reality for many travel managers out there. Thus, by empowering the traveller with better information and more freedom, the traveller and travel manager can coexist more peacefully. Given the current developments, you come to a point where curtailing the traveller’s freedom for any other reason than security is unsustainable.
That’s bringing up an important question, how should travel managers look at the security and privacy issues that come with mobile devices and apps?
I can’t think of any device that is more personal and therefore more secure than a mobile phone. It’s the one device you don’t lend out to your friends, and unlike computer web browsers, apps don’t store cookies on your phone. I have used plenty of public computers that went to a Gmail or Yahoo mail environment just because the previous user didn’t consider the trail of cookies left behind. Even if a mobile device should become stolen, there are ample options to track it or swipe it from a distance. Unwarranted access to the device itself has also become increasingly difficult with the proliferation of fingerprint readers.
Is there any reason for travel managers to see the emergence of mobile as a threat?
I don’t see a lot of resistance to the current movements. In any case, if there is any resistance, most of it results from a lack of understanding. The opportunities for travel managers, on the other hand, are easy to spot:Less anxiety and also: incremental revenues from ancillary and destination services.
How do travel managers achieve incremental revenues? Can you clarify that last point?
The end point of interaction between the travel manager and traveller used to be the purchase of the journey. As a traveller you got a confirmation per e-mail, usually in cryptic block letters, and that was that. With mobile, the moment the transaction is complete is the beginning of the journey. From there on, you can make a wide range of transactions through your mobile application, from ancillaries to transportation alternatives such as Uber, and even destination services like booking a table at a restaurant. These are all commissionable events that the travel manager can monetize.
Where do you situate Amadeus in all of this?
We at Amadeus offer a wide range of mobile apps to our travel partners and agents, allowing them to both instantly communicate with the traveller and offer valuable, commissionable services. This creates an ecosystem where everyone benefits: travel agents add value to their core services and monetize new ones, travellers enjoy more freedom, more choice and less stress, and Amadeus strengthens its partnership with travel agents.
Is there still a way around the mobile revolution?
I think mobile has become nothing less than a prerequisite for success. There is a persistent expectation among travellers that there is a constant line of communication with the travel manager. In the leisure travel sector this shift has already taken place. I for one have learnt that, when I find myself in a situation where I need to get something resolved, it doesn’t take an email, fax or phone call to get it done, but a simple Tweet. Instantaneous communication is the way to go, and mobile, for now, is the way to do it.
Are there any pitfalls that travel managers should take into account?
Mobile is, in essence, an interface to the Internet, and should be regarded as little more than that. Therefore, it will at some point be overtaken by other travel technologies. Whether that is going to be wearables remains to be seen, but travel managers should be cautious in treating mobile as the penultimate piece of technology. Implement it, make the shift, but keep your eyes open for other opportunities.
Care to link up?Find Michael Bayle on LinkedIn here.
Head of Mobile